February 20, 2016


What is redemption? Does it have a flavor similar to justice? As defined before, justice being the preservation of righteousness, we may discern redemption to be the restoration of righteousness. Not so much wronging a right, however, as again the taste of such peripateticism can lead one towards vengeance, as a human subject can define wrongness any way he prefers, over the more grander transcendent good that always remains above his head. Instead, redemption is that same effort at remedy, yet without the passionate anger we come to associate with vengeance. It is a plea. It is an act done in the sake of mercy. Redemption then is instigated by the perpetrator, and hence its nobility when juxtaposed toward vengeance, which is also proactively taken by he who has felt wronged.


This dance around justice is the epicenter of a very quick and thankfully fleeting atonement. It could have easily turned into a soporific excursion by running even 30 minutes more; but wisely, the film is a sweet concentrate of Ian McEwan’s novel by the same name. As is customary for British Oscar-bait, we have standard English pageantry, and a gentle and polite insemination of English customs into the forefront of an American’s mind, on how their side of the Atlantic Shore was exposed to the Nazi machine. And how, pray tell, does this historical instance add depth to the drama at hand? That of betrayal and utter debasement of human civility; never mind the fascinating demonstration of the eternal struggle of man between what is above him and what his inertia always gravitates downwards towards.


The atrocity at hand in Atonement was committed out of the basest instincts of the human animal, which is jealousy, or more primordially, covetousness. In such an elegant manner, we can see a natural human response toward a world which does not behave as one pleases. And this response is nothing more than retaliation, or more apt within a political mentality, revolution. Not to digress too much, but what we see here in Briony retaliating against the man she was infatuated with because he did not return the favor is very much akin to the assembly of human beings who revolt against society for not giving them what they seek. The misconstruing of the brute facts of life with acts of oppression in the contemporary political world – even more appropriately extended into the industrial world stage – which lead not toward a higher spirituality, but toward an animal-esque laceration of what pains them can be seen vividly herein. And we can see the sincere disruption of peace and coexistence between two human beings, who did not even have the fortune of maturing another clichéd drama-type of the romantic struggles between classes. Gratefully, Atonement, could care less about such eroded rock travails which are yawning. No, in conjunction with its cinematically masterful temporal play between memories and imagination, in such a compact package, we are left at the end with a sweet confrontation of what tragedy really is: living in a world which has the potential to be perfect, but can and does lose the opportunity to hit its mark.


Grade: A



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